Spinal Stats

According to New Study, Explosions Are Cause of Most Spinal Injuries Among Wounded Military

StatisticsIn a new study, orthopedic surgeons reviewed more than eight years of data on back, spinal column and spinal cord injuries among U.S. military personnel. The findings, published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, reveal some starting statistics about spinal injuries during service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For example, explosions accounted for 56 percent of spinal injuries. Motor vehicle collisions were responsible for 29 percent, followed by gunshot wounds at 15 percent. The average age at the time of injury was 26.5.

The good news is that lives are being saved.

"In these current military conflicts, the latest technologies in body armor, helmets and other protective devices have helped save many soldiers' lives," says Dr. James A. Blair, an orthopedic surgery chief resident in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam, Houston, Texas. "We also have access to advanced life-saving techniques in the field and medical evacuation strategies that are keeping many more service members alive.

The bad news is that explosions or vehicle collisions put a lot of force on the body.

"Many of those survivors are coming to us with severe injuries to their spine and back,” Blair explains.

The research will help surgeons make recommendations on the most effective treatment and rehabilitation.

The study also found that

  • Of 10,979 evacuated combat casualties, 598 (5.45 percent) sustained a total of 2,101 spinal injuries.
  • 92 percent of injuries were fractures.
  • 90 percent of the injuries were among enlisted personnel.
  • 84 percent of patients had combat-related wounds.
  • In 17 percent of injuries to the spine, the spinal cord also was injured.
  • 53 percent of all gunshot wounds to the spine resulted in a spinal cord injury.
  • Spinal injuries were frequently accompanied by injuries to the abdomen, chest, head and face.